The image above is courtesy of Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay.com.
I have debated whether to post something about the political turmoil in the United States and my thoughts about it on this site.
I decided that today, July 4th 2022, I needed to say something. Today is the day that 246 years ago a group of very learned farmers and entrepreneurs decided to declare freedom from what they viewed as tyranny from the British crown. Today is the day the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence.
Here is the text of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
In 1787, after Congress drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Ben Franklin supposedly said the newly formed United States had “a republic, if you can keep it.” Democracy, like the bubble in the picture above, is a fragile thing.
I am finding it difficult to celebrate the Fourth this year. Because, on June 24, 2022, four men and one woman on the Supreme Court ruled that people who can get pregnant do not have a constitutionally protected right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness after nearly 50 years and despite the fact that they themselves are supposed to derive their power from the consent of the governed. They stated that there is no inherent right to privacy outlined in the Constitution.
That means as a person who can get pregnant, I now have federally fewer rights than a man who cannot. My right to bodily autonomy is now defined by my zip code. That doesn’t sit very well with me.
I am a Gen Xer, born right in the middle of the pack. The message to girls and women while I was growing up was that we could do anything we wanted to do, become anything we wanted to be. We knew that women had only been federally granted the right to vote only 50-60 years earlier (it has only been 102 years since the 19th Amendment was ratified). We knew that women in the 1960s and 1970s had fought to make sure our generation would be on more equal footing with men with regard to career options and equal pay. And, we knew that one of those things that made all of this possible was the Roe v Wade and Griswold v Connecticut decisions that gave us control over our bodies and when we started a family.
I am pro-choice because I believe people in this country have a right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness as they define it for themselves and free of the imposition of the religious views of the few being imposed on the will of the many. I am pro-choice because I am pro-family.
The overturn of Roe will have devasting consequences for families. More pregnant people will die. They will die because doctors won’t know if they can legally treat life-threatening complications like ectopic pregnancy or pre-eclampsia. Pregnant people will die or be permanently disabled as the result of intimate partner violence (when intimate partner violence is the most likely to happen, BTW). More pregnant people will experience life-altering complications from giving birth, including post-partum conditions like depression and lingering high blood pressure or diabetes that may not be adequately treated. More pregnant people will be traumatized from having to carry a non-viable fetus to term. More fetuses will be stillborn. More babies will die after birth because of conditions that are incompatible with life. More babies will be born with lifelong conditions that will require the support of the government. More mothers and children will live in poverty. The states that will make it the hardest to access reproductive care have already no provisions for any paid leave related to prenatal care or childbirth itself. These states already have made it difficult for families to access affordable health care, programs that combat food and housing insecurity, and are very much in the process of dismantling public education. Some leaders in some of these states have suggested that pregnant people’s right to travel outside of their home state to seek the reproductive care that is best for them be curtailed. Missouri is in the process of passing a law that would allow private citizens to sue pregnant people who seek out-of-state reproductive care, a move which is very reminiscent of the Fugitive Slave Act of the 1800s.
Democracy is a fragile thing.
We already are seeing the immediate effects of the overturn of Roe. Requests for appointments for vasectomies and tubal ligations have increased by nearly 10 fold. Clinics in blue haven states like mine are overwhelmed with requests for appointments from out-of-state. By the time the midterm election occurs in November, pregnant people will have died when they otherwise would have chosen to terminate a pregnancy. Babies with substantial disabilities will have been born and will have been referred to the paltry, already overburdened early intervention and other social safety net programs in the states that have banned abortion. In Texas, the Republican-led government already is preparing to draft and pass laws based on people’s right to privacy, including the right to engage in consensual intimacy with the partner(s) of their choosing. The same people who worked to overturn Roe have their sights set on the 1965 Griswold ruling, which granted people the right to use birth control as part of a right to privacy, and implicitly protected our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I can only hope we, the majority of the people in this country, act this fall to institute a Government that truly derives its power from the consent of the governed and that will protect our inalienable rights from the tyranny of the few. We must alter our government so we can organize a world where people who can become pregnant have the same rights as men – or even the same rights as a gun – to effect our own Safety and Happiness.
Democracy is a fragile thing.